A handbook from S&C Electric acts as a guide to the ins and outs of microgrid care for both day-to-day operations and long-term needs. Here an excerpt:
The Realities of Running Your Microgrid
Although microgrids are designed to act automatically and independently, this doesn’t eliminate the need for operations and maintenance. Just as you needed to think through the complexity of creating your microgrid, think through how these complexities carry over to running your microgrid once it’s online. What would you do in these scenarios?
You know a device has failed somewhere in your microgrid, which contains equipment from multiple manufacturers. Who made the device that failed? Is that manufacturer responsible for fixing the equipment and ensuring it’s still compatible with microgrid operations? Do you have someone on your staff, or go-to, on-call support, that’s familiar with the products in your microgrid, even though they’re made by various companies? Even if your support is familiar with the equipment, are they only familiar with the equipment in its typical grid-scale application, or does your support know how differently it functions within a microgrid environment?
This scenario demonstrates the importance of defining in advance how your microgrid will be maintained and, if needed, designating the appropriate point people for particular tasks. Especially when issues arise, you don’t want to waste time determining who should and can fixx a problem.
A fault occurs within your microgrid, and the system successfully isolates it. Your microgrid remains online, so you are unaware of the fault. Later, another fault occurs at a different location within your microgrid, and paired with the isolated fault, the entire microgrid goes down. Now you need to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it.
This potentially troublesome and time-consuming scenario can be avoided with real-time monitoring, which allows you to see how your system is operating at any moment. If you had visibility to the first fault, you could have corrected the problem and gotten out in front of any subsequent faults that would have taken down the system.
Maintenance: Common Pitfalls and Mistakes
- Not monitoring your system.
Even if your microgrid was built perfectly, it can stop working if it’s not regularly inspected. Simple things such as batteries in devices must be checked annually because failing to do so can lead to system failure.
- Not designating who’s responsible.
Whether you’re handling maintenance internally or relying on someone else, know who’s appointed for each task so maintenance doesn’t slip through the cracks.
- Ignoring minor hiccups.
Even though you have redundancy built into your microgrid, small issues can turn into big problems fast within such intricate systems.
- Not customizing maintenance schedules.
Factor into your maintenance plan that you have many types of components from various suppliers that have individualized requirements. This includes software updates and bug fixes, especially to accommodate continually evolving security requirements.
- Neglecting backup inventory.
Some equipment is too large or costly to have excess, but keep what spare parts you can on hand to make replacing them easy.
- Forgetting to train new staff.
Staff retirement and turnover is natural, but be sure you create comprehensive training and plan for onboarding so the knowledge of your microgrid’s needs don’t leave with your personnel.